Pro Media & News

2023 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier: U.S. cruises to 2-0 lead on Day 1 vs. Austria

Victoria Chiesa | April 14, 2023

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - They were the heavy favorites, and they played like it.


Top 10 players Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula staked the U.S. to a 2-0 lead over visiting Austria with a dominant display on Friday night at the Delray Beach Tennis Center in the first two matches of the five-match tie. 


While a rain delay pushed back the official start of play by nearly an hour, that did little to throw the Americans off-kilter.


Gauff opened the tie with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Austria's top-ranked player, word No. 78 Julia Grabher, before Pegula put a bow on Day 1 with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Austria's No. 2, world No. 153 Sinja Kraus. 


"I'm really just so proud of Jessica and Coco," U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said afterwards. "They really played well. I thought their opponents played extremely well tonight. They raised their game, and so did Jessica and Coco. They couldn't have played better. It was wonderful. Great start."

The win was doubly sweet for Gauff: Not only was she nearly flawless in 63 minutes on her home turf, she also earned her first-ever singles victory in this competition. She was 0-1 in her young career entering play after losing to Czech Katerina Siniakova last fall in the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals in Glasgow, Scotland.


Gauff won the opening three games of the match against 26-year-old Grabher, and was broken only once in the match. After losing serve for 2-2 in the second set, the Delray Beach native broke again to get back on top, and never relinquished her lead through to the finish.


"I wanted to protect the house," Gauff said afterwards. "I had a very warm welcome, which I knew that was going to happen. It was a very special moment out there for me today playing for my country, my home city.

"I was very, very hurt after my loss in Glasgow. I didn't want to do that for the team. I'm glad I was able to pull it out for the team today and hopefully continue that on for the rest of the weekend."


Twenty-year-old Kraus impressed the U.S. faithful with a flashy display of raw power at times in the second match, but Pegula showed all present why she's become one of the WTA's best, and most consistent, players over the last 12 months when it mattered most.


The American won the first seven games, saving four break points against her serve in that time, but the Austrian too showed why she's shaved more than 200 places off of her WTA ranking in the last 12 months when her back was against the wall. With Pegula leading 5-3 in the second set, Kraus broke serve for the first time to extend the match, but Pegula wouldn't be denied: She broke Kraus' serve five times in all, including to win the match.


"I think what we thought was going to happen happened, at least strategically," Pegula said. "I think the in the big moments I stuck to that really well. I think the serve, with the heavy conditions, is really important. She started serving better in the second. I thought I could have maybe served a little bit better consistently, but I think I served well when I had to, which is always good.


"I wish I could have served it out at 5-3 because I thought I played a pretty solid match up until then, but I didn't. I was able to play a couple really good games to close it out. I'm happy with the way I competed, didn't get frustrated, was able to pick up my level when I needed to."


Saturday's play will open with a match between each country's top players, Grabher and Pegula. Should Grabher spring an upset and extend the tie, Gauff will face Kraus, with Danielle Collins and Caty McNally scheduled to play Kraus and Melanie Klaffner in the fifth and final doubles match, should the tie get that far.


An abridged schedule could be on the cards if the U.S. wraps up the overall win in either the third or fourth matches. 

Skip Advertisement


Related Articles

  • The U.S. was drawn against Belgium for the 2024 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers, and will play with a home-court advantage. Read More
  • Danielle Collins spoke about outgoing captain Kathy Rinaldi's influence on her after winning her opening match at the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals. Read More
  • Sofia Kenin
    BJKC: U.S. def. SUI
    November 09, 2023
    After beating Switzerland, the U.S. Billie Jean King Cup team will face the Czech Republic on Friday with a spot in the semifinals of the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals at stake. Read More